For the past 20 years, we have been proudly nurturing young talent and turning them into first-team footballers.
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Manager José Gomes is keen to continue that tradition.
He hasn’t been afraid to deploy our Academy graduates in crucial Championship outings. And even on the training pitch, our aspiring pros are being given opportunities to impress.
“I am working with some of our young players every week – Omar Richards, Danny Loader, Ryan East, Josh Barrett, sometimes a central defender as well,” José said. “And sometimes we have even had Under-18s kids training with us.
“I prefer to look to them in person rather than just see videos. If they work with me it is easier for me to form a better opinion. So I like to work with them.
“And I really believe that for the club it is better that in the future we reduce the number of professional players and find some space to bring four or five Under-23s and Academy players in – to give dynamic to the system, to the Academy, to give hope to the players who can see they are playing.
“If you close it off and bring professional players in at the top, you block everything. The kids look up and say, ‘nah, I cannot go there’. So if you bring young players into the squad it’s like a big hope for everybody. And, they have to have quality. And we have kids with quality.
“These young players, I cannot allow them to find space in their brain to think that they are not at the same level as the others. I cannot accept this. If you are here – I don’t care how old you are or where you’re from.
“If you do the things I am asking of you, you will play. And it doesn’t matter if, in your position, there is an international player… I don’t care. So in the moment I give you the chance, you must use it.
“If I put an offensive player in and he plays the ball back all the time and is afraid to shoot… it’s better to play a defender. If you miss the shot, no problem. But you must try.”
It has been a good few weeks for some of our Academy graduates. Andy Rinomhota penned a new deal until 2022 last Monday – the same day, Danny Loader’s hat-trick against Manchester United’s Under-23s helped the Royals to the semi-final of the Premier League International Cup.
“Since I arrived, Andy Rinomhota has played 90 minutes in every game he has been fit for. He has played in different positions – he’s a very serious kid.
“He’s a very good professional. He likes to work, he wants to improve. He really has dedicated his life to football. So he deserves his new contract. Sometimes there is young talent and they just need a chance to prove themselves.
“Danny Loader has been working with us every day. I told him he needed to catch his confidence again in the moment to shoot to goal, and he really used the Manchester United game in the proper way – scoring three goals against them.
“I was very happy to hear that and afterwards to watch the pictures – they really played very well.”